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Happy Thesaurus Day!

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Forget weight loss and penny-pinching, make a resolution to keep this year a little more unconventional. What better way to start than with a few offbeat holidays and anniversaries you can easily observe?

1. January 1: First Foot Day

A Scottish New Year tradition, the first person to step into someone’s home is called the “first-footer” and is thought to represent good fortune entering the household—in the form of gifts including coal, whiskey, cash, and/or cheese and bread. Sorry ladies and blond men—in order to be considered lucky the first-footer should always be a dark-haired man.

2. January 1: 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation

On this date in 1863, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signed this famous document proclaiming to the Executive Branch of government that all enslaved in Confederate territory were now free.

3. January 3: Fruitcake Toss Day

Although it may sound like a culinary Olympic event, Fruitcake Toss Day just marks the time when it is finally socially acceptable to trash all of the holiday fruitcakes you received. If you choose to turn the event into a throwing contest, make sure to have paper towels handy.

4. January 4: National Trivia Day

Here’s how we celebrated last year: 119 Amazing Facts for National Trivia Day.

5. January 4: World Braille Day


The birthday of Frenchman William Louis Braille, after whom this tactile code is named, doubles as a celebration of his groundbreaking system which has provided greater equal opportunities for the visually impaired worldwide since its invention in 1824.

6. January 7: 225th Anniversary of the First U.S. Presidential Election


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In 1788, new nation and future world power the United States of America kicked off its very first Presidential election (which ended in January 1789). As a surprise to no one, except perhaps opponents John Adams and John Jay, George Washington took the race in a landslide.

7. January 8: Bubble Bath Day

If ever there were a day to relax in a bath full of aerated water or foam, today is the one. Once a thing of luxury, the effervescent bath became a kid-friendly—and more affordable—treat in the mid-20th century thanks to companies like Mr. Bubbles.

8. January 10: League of Nations Day


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The rather ill-fated predecessor to the United Nations, the international peacekeeping organization League of Nations formally came to be on this date in 1920. Though the vocal support of President Woodrow Wilson certainly helped its inception, the League quickly fell into disarray, leaving it virtually powerless to prevent World War II. In 1946, Woodrow Wilson’s dream was officially dissolved.

9. January 10: 150th Anniversary of the Underground Railway


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The London Underground, a.k.a. “the Tube,” a.k.a. the transit system formerly known as the Metropolitan Railway, opened its doors in 1863, making it the first underground railway—or subway—in the world.

10. January 17: Kid Inventors Day


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The Kid Inventors Day website attributes television, water skis, earmuffs and the Popsicle to the minds of brilliant minors. Technically, the man who invented the first working television, Philo Farnsworth, applied for the patent at age 21 in 1927, but he showed an early design for his TV to his teacher at age 14. The purpose of Kid Inventors Day is to celebrate and encourage the ingenuity of children—so the Farnsworth blueprint counts!

11. January 18: Thesaurus Day

On this day in 1779, British lexicographer Peter Mark Roget was born. He is most famous for publishing The Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases (aka “Roget’s Thesaurus”) in 1852. This holiday is a day to honor, celebrate, extol, laud, praise, revere, or salute his contributions.

12. January 22: National Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day

If animals could talk, what would they say? We may never know the real answer, but January 22nd is a day to remember the thoughts and feelings of your domestic feline. Don’t worry if cat whispering isn’t your forte. Cat-oriented websites like Cat Channel offer some great icebreakers to get the conversation started. For example, “Are hairballs a common malady? What can my human do to prevent them?”

13. January 23: 56th Anniversary of the Frisbee


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After fighting in World War II, American inventor Walter Frederick Morrison returned to the States and designed what he thought would be the world’s first flying disc. After a few iterations over the course of nearly a decade, he came up with his design for the “Pluto Platter.” On this date in 1957, he sold his rights to this design to the Wham-O toy company. Later that year, Wham-O decided to rename the toy “Frisbee,” a term that came from a Connecticut pie company named Frisbie, whose empty pie tins had become ad-hoc toys.

Wham-O owns the trademark to the term “Frisbee,” so any flying disc from any other manufacturer is technically not a Frisbee.

14. January 24: Beer Can Appreciation Day


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Seventy-eight years ago to the day, the first beer was sold in cans. Since then, the beer can has become a barbecue staple, a collector’s item, and a maligned receptacle for some beer snobs. Today, pause before chugging, shotgunning, or crushing, and take a moment to reflect on what your beer can means to you.

15. January 28: National Kazoo Day

Founded by Chaplin Willard Rahn of the Joyful Kazoo Band, National Kazoo Day celebrates 162 years of this plastic or metal instrument. The organization behind the holiday, Kazoo America, hopes to one day make the kazoo “America’s official musical instrument.” They ask that you please remember the kazoo is definitely not related to the Vuvuzela.

16. January 29: Thomas Paine Day


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Thomas Paine, who was born 276 years ago on this date, became a highly influential figure preceding the American Revolution with the publishing of his Common Sense pamphlets in the colonies. After publishing another series called The American Crisis, and a little war known as the American Revolution, Paine actually returned to live in London. His revolutionary spirit could not be quelled though, and he got back into the action, this time in France. After ruffling some feathers and facing possible execution—pardon our sweeping generalization of history here—Paine returned to the United States to live out his final days.

While we don’t recommend a complete governmental overthrow, today why not honor the spirit of Paine by starting a tiny revolution of your own?

17. January 30: FDR’s 131st Birthday


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Credited by many for pulling the United States out of the Great Depression, Franklin Delano Roosevelt left an indelible impression on American history. He also holds the distinction of being the only American President ever to be elected four times. So celebrate!

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10 Regional Twists on Trick-or-Treating
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Walk around any given American neighborhood on the night of October 31, and you’ll likely hear choruses of "trick-or-treat" chiming through the area. The sing-songy phrase is synonymous with Halloween in some parts of the world, but it's not the only way kids get sweets from their neighbors this time of year. From the Philippines to the American Midwest, here are some regional door-to-door traditions you may not have heard of.

1. PANGANGALULUWA // THE PHILIPPINES

Rice cakes wrapped in leaves.
Suman

The earliest form of trick-or-treating on Halloween can be traced back to Europe in the Middle Ages. Kids would don costumes and go door-to-door offering prayers for dead relatives in exchange for snacks called "soul cakes." When the cake was eaten, tradition held that a soul was ferried from purgatory into heaven. Souling has disappeared from Ireland and the UK, but a version of it lives on halfway across the world in the Philippines. During All Saints Day on November 1, Filipino children taking part in Pangangaluluwa will visit local houses and sing hymns for alms. The songs often relate to souls in purgatory, and carolers will play the part of the souls by asking for prayers. Kids are sometimes given rice cakes called suman, a callback to the soul cakes from centuries past.

2. PÃO-POR-DEUS // PORTUGAL

Raw dough.
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Instead of trick-or-treating, kids in Portugal go door-to-door saying pão-por-deus ("bread for god") in exchange for goodies on All Saints Day. Some homeowners give out money or candy, while others offer actual baked goods.

3. HALLOWEEN APPLES // WESTERN CANADA

Kids trick-or-treating.
iStock

If they're not calling out "trick-or-treat" on their neighbors’ doorsteps on Halloween night, you may hear children in western Canada saying "Halloween apples!" The phrase is left over from a time when apples were a common Halloween treat and giving out loose items on the holiday wasn't considered taboo.

4. ST. MARTIN'S DAY // THE NETHERLANDS

The Dutch wait several days after Halloween to do their own take on trick-or-treating. On the night of November 11, St. Martin's Day, children in the Netherlands take to the streets with their homemade lanterns in hand. These lanterns were traditionally carved from beets or turnips, but today they’re most commonly made from paper. And the kids who partake don’t get away with shouting a few words at each home they visit—they’re expected to sing songs to receive their sugary rewards.

5. A PENNY FOR THE GUY // THE UK

Guy Fawkes Night celebration.

Peter Trimming, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Guy Fawkes Night is seen by some as the English Protestants’ answer to the Catholic holidays associated with Halloween, so it makes sense that it has its own spin on trick-or-treating. November 5 marks the day of Guy Fawkes’s failed assassination attempt on King James as part of the Gunpowder Plot. To celebrate the occasion, children will tour the neighborhood asking for "a penny for the guy." Sometimes they’ll carry pictures of the would-be-assassin which are burned in the bonfires lit later at night.

6. TRICKS FOR TREATS // ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

Kids knocking on a door in costume.
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If kids in the St. Louis area hope to go home with a full bag of candy on Halloween, they must be willing to tickle some funny bones. Saying "tricks-for-treats" followed by a joke replaces the classic trick-or-treat mantra in this Midwestern city. There’s no criteria for the quality or the subject of the joke, but spooky material (What’s a skeleton’s favorite instrument? The trombone!) earns brownie points.

7. ME DA PARA MI CALAVERITA // MEXICO

Sugar skulls with decoration.
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While Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is completely separate from Halloween, the two holidays share a few things in common. Mexicans celebrate the day by dressing up, eating sweet treats, and in some parts of the country, going house-to-house. Children knocking on doors will say "me da para mi calaverita" or "give me money for my little skull," a reference to the decorated sugar skulls sold in markets at this time of year.

8. HALLOWEEN! // QUEBEC, CANADA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
iStock

Trick-or-treaters like to keep things simple in the Canadian province of Quebec. In place of the alliterative exclamation, they shout “Halloween!” at each home they visit. Adults local to the area might remember saying "la charité s’il-vous-plaît "(French for “charity, please”) when going door-to-door on Halloween, but this saying has largely fallen out of fashion.

9. SWEET OR SOUR // GERMANY

Little girl trick-or-treating.
iStock

Halloween is only just beginning to gain popularity in Germany. Where it is celebrated, the holiday looks a lot like it does in America, but Germans have managed to inject some local character into their version of trick-or-treat. In exchange for candy, kids sometimes sing out "süß oder saures"—or "sweet and sour" in English.

10. TRIQUI, TRIQUI HALLOWEEN // COLOMBIA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
Rubí Flórez, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kids in Colombia anticipate dressing up and prowling the streets on Halloween just as much as kids do in the States. There are a few significant variations on the annual tradition: Instead of visiting private residencies, they're more likely to ask for candy from store owners and the security guards of apartment buildings. And instead of saying trick-or-treat, they recite this Spanish rhyme:

Triqui triqui Halloween
Quiero dulces para mí
Si no hay dulces para mí
Se le crece la naríz

In short, it means that if the grownups don't give the kids the candy they're asking for, their noses will grow. Tricky, tricky indeed

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arrow
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10 Regional Twists on Trick-or-Treating
Original image
iStock

Walk around any given American neighborhood on the night of October 31, and you’ll likely hear choruses of "trick-or-treat" chiming through the area. The sing-songy phrase is synonymous with Halloween in some parts of the world, but it's not the only way kids get sweets from their neighbors this time of year. From the Philippines to the American Midwest, here are some regional door-to-door traditions you may not have heard of.

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